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Eur Respir J. 1998 Jan;11(1):67-72.

Association between health-related quality of life and consultation for respiratory symptoms: results from the DIMCA programme.

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Dept of Health Economics, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


In general practice, diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is hampered by underpresentation. A substantial proportion of subjects experiencing respiratory complaints do not consult their general practitioner (GP). In this study, the relationship between disease-specific quality of life and presentation of respiratory symptoms to a GP is investigated. A random sample from the general population (undiagnosed subjects) was screened for symptoms and objective signs of COPD (n=1,155). The lung function of subjects with symptoms of COPD was monitored for 6 months. During this period, 48 new COPD patients with a persistently reduced lung function (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) less than or equal to the predicted value minus 2 SD) were detected. A disease-specific quality-of-life questionnaire (chronic respiratory questionnaire (CRQ)) was administered and clinical and GP consultation data were collected. Multivariate analysis showed that quality-of-life impairments due to dyspnoea and fatigue and variability in lung function (bronchial hyperresponsiveness, reversibility and peak expiratory flow rate variability) were related to medical consultation. Only 31% of the newly detected patients reported that they had ever visited their GP for respiratory complaints. A similarly low percentage was found in the rest of the sample (26%). It is concluded that the mere presence of respiratory symptoms or a (gradually) reduced lung function is insufficient reason for patients to seek medical help. Subjects are more likely to consult their general practitioner once their quality of everyday life is affected or they experience variability in lung function.

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